Arminius’ Claims About The Belgic Confession And Heidelberg Catechism On Predestination

V. This Doctrine Of Predestination Is Not In Harmony With The Confessions Of The Reformed Churches

With a minimum of contention or even trivial objection, it may be appropriately doubted whether this doctrine agrees with either the Belgic confession or the Heidelberg catechism.

1. In the 14th Article of the Belgic Confession, we affirm that man “willfully subjected himself to sin and consequently to death and the curse, giving ear to the words of the devil.” From this I conclude that humanity did not sin on account of necessity due to a preceding decree of predestination, a conclusion diametrically opposed to the doctrine of predestination that I am opposing.

2. In the 16th Article, dealing with eternal election, we read: God then did manifest Himself such as He is; that is to say, merciful and just; merciful since He delivers and preserves from the perdition all whom He in his eternal and unchangeable counsel of mere goodness has elected in christ Jesus our Lord, without any respect to their works: just, in leaving others in the fall and perdition wherein they have involved themselves.” It is not obvious to me that these words are consistent with the doctrine of predestination that I am opposing.

3. In the 20th question of the Heidelberg catechism, we read “are all men, then, saved by Christ as they have perished in Adam?” And the answer is: “no, only those who buy true Faith are in grafted into him and received all his benefit.” From this I conclude that God has not absolutely predestined anyone to salvation, but that in predestining them, he views them as believers in Christ. This deduction is in open conflict with the first and third points of predestination as described above.

4. Furthermore, in the 54th question of the Heidelberg catechism, it is asked: “what do you believe concerning the ‘holy Catholic Church’?” To which is answered, “that out of the whole human race for the beginning to the end of the world, the Son of God, by the Spirit and Word, gatherers, defends, and preserves for Himself unto everlasting life a chosen communion in the unity of the true faith.” In this sentence “preserves for Himself unto everlasting life” stands in mutuality with “in the unity of the true faith.” In such a manner that the latter [true faith] is not subordinated to the former [preserves….unto everlasting life]. This subordination would be required in the logic of the position that I oppose, and it would read: “the Son of God calls and gatherers unto himself, by his Word and Spirit, a company chosen to eternal life in order that they would believe and agree together in the faith.”

Since these are the actual statements of our confession and catechism, no good reason can be foot put forward by those who defend these ever mentioned sentiments on predestination to force these doctrines on their colleagues or on the church of Christ; nor should they be offended and place it in the worst possible light when something is taught in the church or university that does not exactly correspond to or is in opposition to their position.

Arminius And His Declaration Of Sentiments: An Annotated Translation With Introduction And Theological Commentary, ed. W Steven Gunter (Waco: Baylor University press, 2012), 111–12.

Historical Note: He first delivered these sentiments orally in 1608. Arminius died in 1609. His followers almost immediately published their views in The Five Points of the Remonstrants. The Synod of Dort (1618–19), composed of delegates from the Dutch Provinces, the British Isles, and Germany (the French delegates were prevented by the French crown from attending) considered and rejected unanimously Arminius’ re-interpretation of the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession. They published their conclusions in the Canons of Dort. In our time the Federal Vision movement has sought to re-interpret the Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and Canons of Dort and has likewise been rejected by the confessional Reformed and Presbyterian churches.


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